‘Gammon’ abuse shows that the middle-class haven’t learnt the lessons of Brexit

Gammon. Picture by Jane Charlesworth (CC BY 2.0)

Jason Morgan

Mae modd darllen yr erthygl yma ar ei ffurf wreiddiol yn Gymraeg yma.

It’s not often that I feel the need to write an article on anything political these days.

I’ve become disillusioned by party politics, and that has coloured my view of all politics.

I don’t really care anymore. I don’t like living in a country that is so polarised; the right wing claiming freedom of expression, the left blaming a liberalism they’ve deformed to suit their own views.

Stay and leave. North and south. Atheist and believer. A label for everyone, and everyone wanting a label. Every lefty a snowflake and everyone that disagrees with them a fascist.

The only polarisation we need in our country – between Welshness and Britishness – doesn’t get a look in and I’m left standing in the middle thinking that everyone else is a fuckwit.

And no-one learns their lesson. That’s what riles me. No one learns anything.

I’m happy enough for those I disagree with politically not to learn their lessons – it makes it easier to criticise them – but when people I agree with fail to learn lessons I’m seized by a deep, hopeless frustration.

It was gammon that made me angry today. Why? For most of us that’s a sentence we thought we would never write. For me, it was only a matter of time.

It’s the abusive term ‘gammon’ I have in mind. It generally refers to older men (and often balding and tattooed) who voted for Brexit; prejudiced, yes, but also often uneducated and working class.

I don’t share their views, so why does the term ‘gammon’ stick in my craw? There are a number of reasons, but the most fundamental one is who has come up with the term and to why it’s applied.

It’s used by middle-class, urban, pseudo-liberal (this ‘pseudo’, used deliberately, is a blog in itself) who are often living comfortably, tend to be young and are strongly for staying in the EU.

These are people I often identify strongly with on a political level, but less so on a personal level.

They use ‘gammon’ to refer to the working class (or at least always to refer to people who happen to belong to the working class). I was raised working class, share many of its views on life and identify with this class on a personal level in a way that I can’t with the middle class.

And gammon is a term of abuse. A gammon isn’t a middle-class, middle-aged man who is the line manager for five people and drives a five-year-old Audi. They’re the people at the bottom of the pile, and they’re my people.

It’s my identity, not my politics, that’s tribal – which is, in itself, a fundamental difference between the middle and working class.

I mentioned before the referendum that I thought that this highbrow, insulting, disdainful attitude towards the working class, which has been slowly developing for about 20 years, would lose the referendum.

I discussed aspects of social and economic matters but I suggested that at its heart it would be this attitude that could open the door to Brexit.

Without repeating myself too much here, I think I was justified to think this was the case by the demographic split in the results.

The ‘gammon’ social media meme

Stuck-up

As a result, I don’t share the anger and distaste that many Remain voters have towards those who voted to Leave.

I’m angry about a lot of things – about losing the referendum, that the Leave campaign won’t be held to account for their lies and deception, the hypocrisy of some of the leaders of the Leave campaign, their self-interest and reluctance to deal with the mess they’ve created.

However, I’m also angry with the Remain campaign for their completely pathetic campaign, and because many of Remain’s most vocal backers were responsible for the creation of a political climate that led to Brexit.

Because it’s their stuck-up attitude over many years that led to many opting to vote Leave, out of spite.

But I’m not angry with those that voted Leave because I don’t believe that their reasons for doing so were without foundation or worthless – even a stupid opinion isn’t an invalid one.

And I hate the constant moaning from people my age and younger that we’ve had our futures stolen from us. There may be an element of truth in it but I’m sure when we are older we will all vote for what we believe in, not for what the younger generation does, whoever they are.

Tragedy

But back to gammon. Yes, it’s a term of abuse – I don’t really care about that – but it attacks a class of people who have been abused for so long by another group that they’ve soured completely.

All that ‘gammon’ achieves is:

  1. Reinforces the impression that the middle-class disdain the working class – an impression that did so much to lose the referendum in the first place.
  2. Confirms to the working class that they did the right thing in voting for Brexit.

And the frustrating thing is that people don’t see that. There has been no change of tactics. No attempt to convince people on a level they could identify with.

The tradition of abusing the lowest in society is too set, to the extent that the Conservatives – who are no friend of the working class – has been able to manipulate that ill-feeling for their own political ends.

For the above reason, if there was, for whatever reason, a second referendum, the result would be almost exactly the same.

The tragedy is that there are large number who would change their vote from Leave to Remain but won’t, because of our political discourse is so polarised.

I’m not sure why I bothered writing this article. I still side with the liberal, economically left-leaning, Remain voters.

But I have soured because I expected better from those who agree with me. I expected them to be wiser than emulate the discourse of the other side, and to learn lessons about why we are where we are now.


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